Even with decent numbers in Fort Hays State’s first two games, senior receiver Harley Hazlett wasn’t quite feeling like himself on the field.
But it didn't take long for the Abilene product to return to his play-making self, notching back-to-back monster games for the Tigers.
Hazlett caught eight passes for 123 yards with three touchdowns in FHSU’s 44-3 win over Missouri Southern last week, following up his nine-catch, 105-yard, two-touchdown performance the week before against Washburn.
“It’s just confidence,” Hazlett said. “It’s definitely nice knowing that I’m feeling like my old self again. I’ve just been playing well and letting things come to me, instead of trying to be the senior out there and making everything happen."
Hazlett’s big game last Saturday came against his former coach at Garden City Community College, Jeff Sims, who’s in his first year as Missouri Southern head coach.
“It was fun,” Hazlett said of going up against Sims' team. “He’s a great coach, great dude. He’s always been one guy that I’ve looked up to and he’s respected me. It was just fun going out there and playing against him, as well as handing him that 44 points on the board.”
Hazlett, 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, spent one season at Garden City, helping the Broncbusters win the NJCAA National Championship in 2016 before coming to FHSU.
Sims was complimentary of Hazlett and his development with the Tigers, who are getting set to face Central Oklahoma at 1 p.m. Saturday in Edmond.
“Harley’s big,” Sims said. “You can tell he’s been in the weight room, they’ve been feeding him. He was a leaner guy when he played for me. … I think Fort Hays right now is showing why they’re a good football program.”
Hazlett leads the MIAA in receptions (28) and touchdown receptions (six) while ranking third in receiving yardage (388). The Tigers have been finding a variety of ways to get him the ball.
“I always tell coach I can run the ball too," Hazlett said. "You can put me as a running back. It’s always kind of fun waiting to see what plays they put in.”
Hazlett said the Tiger offense is starting to click after putting up 40-plus points in back-to-back weeks.
“Offensive line play has picked up, which is a big part of it,” Hazlett said. “Now we can have a run game. (Charles Tigner) has been playing really well. Once you have those things (running and passing) going, they can’t just send six guys deep, playing us three receivers. They have to respect the run, which helps us."
The Tigers will take on a fellow 2-2 team in Central Oklahoma, which is coming off a 59-10 loss at Northwest Missouri after routing Lincoln 63-0 the week before.
Last year’s FHSU-UCO matchup was a defensive struggle, with the Tigers earning a 15-0 win.
“It’s a battle every single year," FHSU coach Chris Brown said. "Last year’s game was all field goals, no touchdowns. It’s the time of the season where one team's going to go one way and one team’s going to go another. We need to find a way to win this ball game. They’re a very good football team.”
Will Collins and Keats Calhoon have been splitting time at quarterback for the Bronchos. Collins is 31 of 57 through the air with 459 yards, four touchdowns and an interception, while Calhoon is 29 of 50 for 381 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Bronchos’ running back T.J. Roberts has 318 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, while Dustin Basks has a team-high 17 receptions for 304 yards.
“They’re big up front on both sides of the ball,” Brown said. “Very skilled at all their skill positions and they have some speed too, and their quarterback’s solid. We’ve got two teams that are 2-2 and trying to take that next step to go on and win a conference championship.”